Chabelita lies naked between me and Gabby, the dishevelled clump of brown yarn that is her hair touches my face and makes it itch. I hold Chabelita by the torso and move her to the headboard after I tuck the cotton in the middle of her round face inside the hole left by what had been her tiny nose. I laugh a little as I gaze at the red drawings on Chab's body, particularly Gab's drawing of a girl on the doll's arm. "Best friend niya yon," Gab explained when I asked her about it. "Para lagi niyang kasama. Hindi siya mag-isa." Another time, Gab said it was a drawing of herself. She said she was Chab's mommy.
Gab received Chabelita as a gift from my mom. I forgot when - maybe two or three years ago. "Chabelita" had been stitched across the doll's jumper and that was how Gab chose the doll's name.
Now, brown patches from food stains and grime that can't be removed by washing now mark Chab's once-flushed face. Her jumper has gone missing. Spots of flesh-colored cloth on her head grow bigger everyday as more and more strands of brown yarn fall off. The white thread that keeps her head attached to her body has become gray and has started to unravel in more than one place. But Gab's attachment to the doll has not diminished. She refuses to part with it or replace it with a new doll. She dresses Chab in her baby clothes, embraces it when she sleeps, lets it sit on her lap or beside her when she watches tv and brings it along when we go out of the house.
Could this be maternal instinct kicking in at a very early age or does this mirror how we treat the people we love? Because no matter what happens, no matter how "ugly" (and not just physically) our loved ones become, love will always act as the thread that keeps us forever attached to them.